DECLARE IT, PREACHER, DECLARE IT!
An evil day has dawned on the pulpit: too many preachers are purveyors of doubts and nibblers at problems when they should be trumpeters of informed convictions.
For the heat and intensity of the sentences that follow I decline to offer apology. If nothing is to be gained by speaking vehemently, more is to be lost by acquiescing silently.
The declarative note, resounding confidently, is what makes preaching preaching. “We declare unto you glad tidings,” said St. Paul to the people of Antioch. “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you,” said the same St. Paul to the men of Athens.
Take the affirmations that are enshrined in the Apostles’ Creed. They are of the very warp and woof of the New Testament. They are neither platitudinous nor peripheral. They are specific and central. Taken as a whole, they speak the mind of the historic Church. They represent a continuum of living, declaratory faith by which the generations of God’s witnessing people on earth have been held together in a fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
A preacher is free to believe or disbelieve these definitive affirmations. If, however, he chooses to disbelieve them, he should have the decency to probe himself with the question: By what right do I hold my credentials as a minister of Christ and of the Church of Christ when I have elected to dissociate myself from the very faith that brought the Church into being?
And if I say, “But I am interpreting these phrases so that they are agreeable to the contemporary mind; I am giving them an up-to-dateness which in their ancient uncouthness they lack,” then am I candid enough to say that that is not interpretation which is in fact repudiation? Altering the ribbon on the jewel box may be applaudable artistry, but mutilating the treasure within, far from being artistry, is treachery.
Preacher, you are free, but you are not independent. You stand in community. You are a representative of the historic Church. You are a servant of the Word of God. You are an ambassador of Jesus Christ, who by his birth has split history in two, by his death has made sun-clear the way to God’s forgiveness, and by his resurrection has spoiled the empire of death.
Declare it! Unashamedly and unceasingly declare it! Declare it not as shrieking dogmatism but as enlightened conviction, shared and confirmed by a million times a million souls along the track of centuries.
Declare that God is Creator, Redeemer, and Judge. Declare God’s unalterable hatred of sin—sin that has estranged men from himself, the very source of their being, sin that defiles and disorganizes men in their persons and degrades and disintegrates men in their societies. Declare therefore the reality of hell—hell now, since men arc punished by their sins, and hell tomorrow, since men will be punished for their sins.
Declare the matchless, enduring love of God for men. Love that is of grace, undeserved, undiminished! Love that, having put God on a cross—the cross of man’s sin—proposes to put man on a throne where he reigns as a grateful and obedient servant.
Declare it! Declare it as God’s good news in Jesus Christ. Declare it as the Gospel of power by which the bored can be made purposeful, the bound can be freed, the drunken can be made sober, the fear-ridden emancipated, the guilty forgiven, and the disintegrated made whole.
Declare it, brother preacher, declare it! Your silence is not golden, it is craven. Your evasion is your devastation. From your ambiguity only one thing can come—your futility. Either get out or get in!
Then declare it—this “whole counsel of God.” In Christ’s name, declare it!
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